The Devils traveled to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets in their final game just prior to the bye week and the All-Star break.
Unfortunately for the Devils, Elvis was in the building for the Jackets. Columbus goaltender Elvis Merzlikins stopped all 41 of the Devils shots, withstanding a great Devils’ first period and got the 5-0 shutout. This was the first time the Devils had been shutout since December 10 at Dallas.
The Devils have had some problems at the Nationwide Arena over the last few seasons. They had a 3-14-1 record over the last 18 games coming into tonight according to MSG Network.
Cory Schneider got the nod to start for the Devils for the first time since November 8 (71 days according to MSG Network) with the Devils scratching Louis Domingue to exercise caution with his injury. He made 13 saves on 17 Blue Jacket shots for a .765 save percentage. Mackenzie Blackwood, who was serving as the backup tonight, came in after the fourth Columbus goal and made 13 saves on 14 shots for a .929 save percentage. The Blue Jackets finished the game with 31 shots, being outshot by the Devils by ten.
Mike McLeod and Mirco Mueller were the other scratches as Kevin Rooney slotted back in after missing the last game due to illness.
The Devils restructured some of their lineup, moving Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier and Wayne Simmonds to the top line and using the line of Blake Coleman, Travis Zajac and Nikita Gusev as a unit on the power play.
Speaking of the power play, the Devils went 0-for-3 with five shots and Columbus was 0-for-2 with two shots (both on Schneider) and a shorthanded goal (also on Schneider).
Although the Devils had the better first period, peppering Merzlikins with 21 shots in the opening frame, the Blue Jackets had the better of it. They came out roaring and hit a post right away.
Cam Atkinson got them on the board first at 14:49 of the first when he took a long-range shot from just inside the blue line and beat Schneider to make it 1-0. Nathan Gerbe and David Savard had the assists.
The rest of the Columbus scoring came in the second period beginning when Atkinson scored his second of the night 8:40 in. It came just off of a Devils power play where they had applied pressure in the Jackets’ zone for about two minutes straight. Atkinson then took a snap shot off of the rush and beat Schneider to make it 2-0. Emil Bemstrom and Alexander Wennberg had the assists.
Jacob Lilja made it 3-0 when he scored unassisted at the 11:58 mark of the second period. On this one, Schneider made the initial save and the rebound was cleared by Will Butcher right to the stick of Lilja. He fired it by Cory and the Jackets had tripled their lead.
The fourth goal came when a hard around clearing attempt by the Devils came right to Vladislav Gavrikov. He shot on Schneider and the rebound came to Nick Foligno in front and he scored at 12:14.
It was after this goal that Schneider was pulled in favor of Blackwood. Blackwood would give up the fifth goal when Wennberg took a pass from Atkinson and skated up ice. He broke into the Devils’ zone and roofed one by Blackwood to make it 5-0. Zach Werenski had the secondary assist.
A scoreless third period did feature a short wrestling match-style scrap between Gerbe and Damon Severson.
Statistically, the Devils won 54-percent of the game’s faceoffs, with Travis Zajac winning 67-percent of his. The Devils had one more hit than Columbus at 22 to 21 and the Jackets had 17 blocked shots to the Devils’ eight. Columbus had more turnovers at eight than the Devils at six.
Time on ice was led by PK Subban, who had 22:40 of ice time (1:50 on the power play and 1:57 shorthanded included). Pavel Zacha led the forwards with 19:46 (2:06 on the PP and 2:10 killing penalties).
Shots were led by Hischier with five, hits by Andy Greene with four, blocks by Hischier with two and takeaways by Zacha with two.
Next up, the bye week/All-Star break. Nico Hischier will be taking part in the festivities in St. Louis and we will have coverage of that for you next weekend. Following that, on the 27th of January, the Devils will face the Senators in Ottawa. Have a great week everyone!